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Sanderson Farms ready for full-production by mid-May

Posted at 11:16 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 23:16:41-04

MOULTRIE, Ga. (WTXL) — President Trump ordered meat production factories across the country to stay open this week, impacting many in Georgia, where a lot of poultry is processed.

One poultry giant says they're ready to continue, despite concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in southwestern Georgia.

Sanderson Farms Chicken is in just about every grocery store.

ABC 27 spoke exclusively with Mike Cockrell, the chief financial officer of Sanderson Farms about bouncing back after a COVID-19 outbreak slowed down production at their Moultrie, Georgia location.

The company says business is back to normal weeks after requiring more than 400 Dougherty County employees self quarantine.

"We have had positives," said Cockrell. "We're not talking about the number, but it mirrors the community."

With cases of COVID-19 spiking in southwest Georgia, Mississippi-based chicken plant Sanderson Farms made the bold decision to send 424 employees at the Moultrie plant home earlier this month.

"We looked at our duty roster and realized we had 424 people with addresses in Dougherty County," Cockrell said. "Out of an abundance of caution, we asked all of them to go home and self quarantine with pay to make sure they weren't ill. They've all come back to work."

In that time, the plant's production took a hit.

"We reduced capacity at about 15 percent," said Cockrell.

Members of community who spoke with ABC 27 were concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, and in favor of the company's decision.

"It should be more regulations," said Jospeh Godrey. "They should shut them down."

Quincy Bradley agreed, saying he was very concerned.

"Yes. Yes, it makes me afraid," said Bradley. "I'm scared. Scared to go buy meat people touched with their hands."

But, Cockrell maintains there is no reason to be afraid to buy their meat.

"By all scientific measures, there's no risk from eating meat," Cockrell said. "You can't get the virus from eating cooked product."

While the production took a hit, the demand for chicken didn't.

Maybe you've noticed the chicken that you want is a little harder to come by.

"We get a lot of orders out of Moultrie for de-boned breast meat," said Cockrell. "That's a big order we get out of Florida."

Cockrell says the workers in Moultrie have returned and they'll be back to full production by mid-May.

He also said there are plenty of guidelines in place to keep employees safe.

Everyone is wearing face and mask shields, there are social distancing guidelines, and no one enters a plant without getting their temperature checked.

Cockrell also says the president's executive order for meat plants won't affect them as much.

Chicken plants are more isolated than other meat facilities, but he also says Sanderson Farms enacted many of the guidelines under the order back in March.